Washington DC's 'Rock'n'roll' Burger King Has Sad News For Fans

While Burger King might seem almost as ubiquitous as its biggest rival, they've only got about half as many locations in the U.S. as McDonald's does. According to ScrapeHero, BK currently operates over 7,200 restaurants nationwide, but that same data company also reports that there are over 13,600 Golden Arches throughout the country. What's more, while there may be Burger Kings in all 50 states, one not-quite-state is surprisingly almost BK-free: the city known outside its borders as Washington, DC but more commonly referred to by Beltway insiders as "the District" or just "DC."

According to Washingtonian, the Burger King located on Connecticut Avenue in Northwest DC (the only quadrant most tourists visit) is the last of this chain's restaurants to be open to the public. While Burger King's website does list another location on Bolling Air Force Base in Southwest DC, good luck getting a Whopper there if you're a civilian. As things stand, though, should you be visiting our nation's capital (for non-nefarious purposes, we hope) and get a sudden urge for chicken fries, you may be obliged to travel to Maryland or Virginia. It seems the Van Ness Burger King, located just steps from the University of the District of Columbia, according to Google Maps, will soon be shutting its doors for good.

What makes the Van Ness Burger King so rock 'n' roll?

One thing is immediately apparent as soon as you step inside this Burger King — it's no cookie-cutter fast food establishment, that's for sure. Instead, it boasts a unique decor that one Twitter user described as "not [having] been redesigned since 1997..." but in a good way! The 1997 date refers to a movie poster from Titanic, the blockbuster that won the Best Picture Oscar for that year. Even more prominent are artifacts of even earlier eras (and movies): bicycle-riding kids — and one alien life form — suspended from the ceiling in a recreation of the famous chase scene from 1982's E.T. as well as a 3D shark bursting out of the wall above a poster for 1975's Jaws.

DCist calls the restaurant, which opened in 1980, a "shrine to '80s and '90s cinema," mentioning additional memorabilia from The Blues Brothers, Terminator 2, and Jurassic Park as well as rock-and-roll relics including guitars and posters from groups ranging from The Who to the B-52s. All of the collectibles, it seems, came from the restaurant's original owner, a man who formerly ran a store specializing in that sort of thing. Rather than tossing it out or auctioning it off (more difficult to do in the pre-eBay days), he instead created a combo fast food restaurant/museum that Washingtonian says has earned the nicknames "Rock'n'Roll Burger King" and "Hollywood Burger King."

Why the restaurant is closing

There has been talk about this restaurant closing down for several years now. Washingtonian says that the idea first surfaced in 2018 when changes in zoning regulations forced the restaurant to repave the parking lot. What's more, Burger King corporate was pressuring owner Mark James to make what they considered to be needed updates to the facilities. The face lift, which would affect both the building's interior and exterior, would have resulted in the loss of everything that made it so unique. As DCist revealed, when James was asked what would become of the memorabilia post-renovation, he answered: "That's all gone," though he said he intended to store it in a warehouse rather than consign it to a dumpster.

The renovations never took place, however, since the pandemic saw a severe drop in the restaurant's revenue. According to local news blog The Forest Hills Connection, the loss of foot traffic from UDC students and from employees at nearby WAMU radio station meant hard times for all the neighborhood merchants, and Burger King was no exception. Without the necessary funding, they could no longer afford to renovate. Nor could they fix their parking lot problems, storm water drainage, and other issues, and determined it would be cheaper just to close up shop. As to what will become of the memorabilia, evidently the Smithsonian hasn't yet offered to host this home-grown heritage exhibit. After all these years, it's possible that the re-homed memorabilia will wind up on eBay, after all.